“Camp in high places, facing the sun” Sun Tsu (your head should always face towards the rising sun, this is an essential item that both Sun Tsu and the American Indian agree on. I also do this as a matter of course, camping in high places means exactly that, never camp in the bottom of a valley, but camp up the side of the ravine or on small hills. There are numerous reasons for this.)
A good sleeping bag is an essential part of the preppers, campers, individuals kit. For myself I have never understood how anyone could not have at the very least a wool blanket and tarp in their vehicle or go bag. But of course we are speaking about people who do not generally plan past the next meal and shop daily versus having any food stores available. Sleeping bags are an essential part of your kit.
There are several types of sleeping bags that can be obtained, some can be zipped together for duel use, others are called mummy bags because they encase your body rather tightly and still others are meant for day camping or light weight summer use. While I am not a fan of the military I will say that their 5 piece setup is worth every penny spent if that is the route you choose to go. However, at an average of $100-200 per complete setup these are not always financially viable solutions. This is where my favorite approaches come in. I personally have four different kinds of sleeping bags and am working on obtaining another 3 bags of the military surplus version, though not the USA military version.
Shelter encompasses a way to keep yourself and others warm, this means being able to shelter those with you and cover them to retain warmth. This can be done with a tarp and wool blanket combination. I personally use and have tested in both seasons in the high desert this combination. Wool blankets can be had for around $20-40 apiece and this is for the 80”x50” and larger sizes. Tarps can be had at any local hardware store for anywhere from $9-120 depending on type of fabric used and size. I prefer a 12’x12′ poly tarp with one side silver reflective and the other a green or other medium to dark color. In a pinch placing the tarp on the ground and blanket on top of that and wrapping up like a burrito will keep you from freezing (yes I have tested this at around 15 degrees with a wind though I have not tested much lower as it is difficult to find lower temperatures in Arizona high desert land.)
At the very bottom of the pile for sleeping bags is the emergency mylar bag, these function VERY well for retaining heat and if cared for can work for several uses before needing to be tossed away. I always include a half dozen or so of these in all of my bags and vehicles as they are inexpensive and quite simply the number of alternative uses for them is endless with an imagination.
Okay so for my list of sleeping bags and reasons for each after testing them in a variety of conditions and locations across the Southwest including Eastern Washington state, All of New Mexico and Nevada.
Czech Army Mummy Sleeping bag is my top pick for myself and my family. However, they are not easy to get anymore. The reason I choose this as my top choice is that it has a water proof bottom which is nice during rainy season as it prevents water from getting into your sleeping arrangement. I also like that it is a VERY warm and relatively comfortable bag which when you add a wool (always make sure it is 70 to 100% wool) blanket it is good for subzero weather as well as summer camping. Keep Shooting is one of my favorite places to get good military surplus items like this. When available they run around $25 apiece which is an amazing price.
Czech Army Three Piece sleeping bag is my second pick and offers a greater level of comfort then the mummy bag simply because it has a flannel interior. If the milsurp smell offends your nose get it dry cleaned. You can find these as well at Keep Shooting for a mere $24 apiece at the moment.
Teton Sports mummy zero degree bag is a lightweight, easy to carry and VERY comfortable modernized trekkers bag that weighs much less then the mil surp bags do. It is my third choice and yes, I have one– however, they are relatively expensive ranging from $60-180 apiece depending on what you want and sizes.
Last but not least are the inexpensive Coleman warm weather sacks, we have several of these and use them for everything from warm weather camping to sleepovers for the kids. They are NOT to be relied on solely for cold weather in any way. Add a wool blanket if you want to use them for this purpose. Regardless you can easily get them for $20-40 apiece and they are lightweight and relatively comfortable.
Camping regardless location always brings with it a host of minor issues that we never stop to consider. Of course, if we are keeping a camping journal and using this to change our go bags and ready kits then we should be more comfortable every single time we go out.
My very general three rules for sleeping bags are simple,
Sleep naked or as close to naked as possible inside your bag, clothing will defeat the purpose of the bag in retaining body heat. I use my outer clothing for a pillow.
If at all possible, make a reflector behind you and long fire pit in front of you with some solid chunks of wood to keep a nice bed of coals going. This will keep you warm regardless temperatures!
If you are without a bag of any type or blanket, under every mesquite or in most forest locations there is a layer of dead and moldy leaves and detritus from the plant, using your hands or a stick dig up a nice thick pile of this and use it to cover yourself with. It may smell, it may have insects BUT it will keep you warm.
Be smart, be prepared and please use your head for more than putting on makeup or swiveling when a pair of legs and wiggling arse walks by.
Free the mind and the body will follow